Phasing out the raid consumables

patisserie

Let’s face it, consumables in game are nowhere near as fun as consumables in real life.

Clicking on an icon doesn’t compare well to choosing from a menu or window display. Aside from the fact that you can’t taste it anyway, there’s no feast for the senses, no visual appeal. You can’t get excited about clicking a potion the same way you can from looking at a patisserie window.

Even aside from the pictures of cakes, consumables fill an odd function in MMOs. They provide some benefit to the consumer – maybe a short term buff, or faster healing. They are often player-created via a tradeskill, so a constant demand keeps the tradeskill viable. And they are usually optional for soloing, but considered important in any really challenging content. Like anything which provides stats in a game, consumables can be min-maxed. So if you end up in progression raids, part of the skill of raiding is knowing which consumables to bring and where to get them from.  Some may last different amounts of time, be easier to get, be defunct, or be buyable with tokens.

This is all very obscure if you are a new player. You could easily level to cap and have run many instances without anyone ever saying a thing about consumables and without really having them mentioned in quests either.

In LOTRO I’m terrible at remembering the raid consumables. I usually try to load up on them when I can, but some of them affect your whole group, others can be over-written, and yet others come in varying strengths and durations. So it’s guaranteed that the one time a raid leader asks you to use one, it’ll be the one you don’t have.

I am assuming that with more practice (read: more whining at Arb) I’ll know what to bring. But right now, it all seems so random. I keep wondering – would this be more fun if the consumables were just kind of … baked in to the game. It’s not as if there’s really much choice once you know which the optimal ones are. Turbine have made things easier. You can buy most of the potions with Mirkwood emblems (of which I have several hundred in my vault, and I can’t actually remember how or why).

Warcraft is going the same way. In Cataclysm, food buffs will be provided by feasts (only one person in the raid needs to bring them) and there are hints of cauldrons (only one person in the raid needs to bring the elixir), flasks will be very cheap and also last through death, and spell reagents get more optional also.

I know this is more grist to the mill of complaints about dumbing  down, but raid consumables were just an extra list of “stuff you have to do before you raid.” They represented a kind of secret raider knowledge that regular players didn’t need to know (in Vanilla WoW, most people would never have needed to use a flask, and might have no clue about where they came from or what they did.) The discipline of having to farm your own raid consumables did add something to the raiding experience. It was more than just turning up on raid night. But it was also time consuming, obscure, and doesn’t really fit in modern games.

I’d see the phasing out of raid consumables as a bell wether for where MMOs are drifting. Being pressured to look information up outside the game is the next big element which devs will attempt to optimise out of MMOs in future.

For all that, I have a soft spot for cooking as a trade skill. In WoW, it’s probably the best fun of any of them. It combines the fun of collecting ingredients with having lots of different recipes to make – and many of them do sell at end game (less now that feasts are available though.) It’s just that once stats are involved, any of the fun of window shopping at patisseries disappears. They’re just like any other boring old MMO stat item.

Weekend Update: Getting ready for Ulduar

If I have been lax with WoW updates lately it is because I have dialled back my time in game. At the moment, I am mostly just logging in for raids and to do auction-housing at weekends. I’ve stopped running weekly 10 man Naxx sessions, because even with alts, the interest dried up.

This is not especially a bad thing. It’s important not to feel forced to play any game when you’d rather not  — that’s a cornerstone of my casual ethos! And since my 10 man runs were always meant to be optional fun-runs, I’ll take the lack of interest as a sign to slow down. So, playing much less but not burned out and I still enjoy our raid nights.

The raids have been more unfocussed lately. The general feel is that this is because dps are now pretty darn geared. Tank threat was dialled so high at the beginning of the expansion that no one really had to think about it. Now, they do, and some people aren’t as quick to adjust as others. Tanks also are adjusting to the world in which threat is important.

I noticed this early enough to pick up a good threat set and really try to work on it. For which I owe many thanks to the other more experienced protwarrior bloggers, theorycrafters, and forum posters who generously described the hows and whys of threat and how they went about maximising it. And also all the guys who manage to put out insane dps while tanking Patchwerk and were happy to talk about how they did it. I’m not up with the stars but I was happy to hit 2k dps when tanking him last week.

Short form: The keys are lots of expertise, using dps trinkets when you are defence capped and have ‘enough’ heath, and hammering Heroic Strike.

I expect this to be an issue through Ulduar also. In a way, it would be sad if it wasn’t and it’ll make the fights more interesting. Also it’s a way to separate out the great dps players from the merely good :)

Getting ready for Ulduar

The next patch brings a new focus on raiding. A new, harder raid instance, and lots of progression raids to accompany it. Also, there will be a new arena season, and more solo content so a big upturn in activity in game.

The main two ways to prepare for this are:

  1. Lay in stocks of what you might need for your own use
  2. What can you stock up now that might sell for more gold after the patch?

So as a raider, I want to be able to lay my hands on a few week’s worth of consumables. Mostly flasks, since we’ll (probably) be dying a lot and the Stoneblood Flask is also getting a boost. Gems, enchants, and other enhancements like leg armour and belt buckles may be worth stocking up if you really want to make a virtue of being prepared.

In my case, I can farm saronite and swap it with our jewelcrafters for gems  and I can make my own belt buckles so I’m not really sweating it. It isn’t as if I’m really short of gold. With the help of guildies, we donated a stack of buckles to the guild bank which should keep people in buckles for awhile.

Dual speccing also means needing more glyphs. I don’t know whether I’d advise buying pre-patch. Prices might go up, but then again every inscriptor  on the server might suddenly get really active in competing with each other on the AH, so who knows?

The other intriguing loot area is the new recipes that will be dropping in Ulduar for blacksmithing/ leatherworking/ tailoring gear. If they are like the SSC patterns, then they may be rare drops. On the other hand, everyone and his dog will be in Ulduar as soon as it goes live. I figure titansteel bars/ arctic fur, and whichever cloth the tailors will need are probably safe to stock. Also elemental earth for the blacksmithing pieces.

Ideally, the pattern will be really rare but I’ll get one in our first Ulduar excursion ;P I think this is unlikely.

The main thing with making money from patch 3.1 is that there has been a lot of time for anyone who is interested to stock up items to sell and plenty of publicity about what the patch will contain. So there could be many many people with titansteel, glyphs, etc. stocked up. It’s hard to really know before the patch hits.

Safest bets are probably raid consumables. Frost Lotuses get used in large amounts. People will always want gems and enchants. There’s a new arena season coming also so that means a lot of people will be getting new gear.

But don’t go overboard on stacking blue quality gems. Bear in mind that people can turn in their heroic badges for blue gems and a lot of people have a lot of spare badges.

Anyone who can be bothered to collect stacks of raid food (or meat that can be turned into raid food) is probably also onto a good thing. Many people have plenty of gold and will happily spend it in order to avoid the duller side of raid preparation. Put it up on the auction house on maintenance day because that’s when most guilds start their raid week. (That’s my big money making tip, by the way.)

The other thing I’ve done is play my warlock some more. He’s just my fun dps alt, but he’s now exalted with the Kirin Tor which means that he can make Sapphire Spellthread. I’m stocking this to sell, partly for the cash and partly because he gets skill points from making it anyway.

Practicing that off-spec

I’ve also been dusting off my Fury gear and spending some of my excess badges on dps upgrades.

Tanks seem to be becoming rarer — I think people saw the glut and aren’t levelling their alts as tanks any more. Certainly I’ve been in more demand to tank heroics for people, so not as much chance to practice dps as I would have liked. I think I’m pretty much done with heroics now, even with friends I’m struggling to stay focussed these days.

Are you getting ready for Ulduar, or just take things as they come?